Bryce Harper’s production has not be at high level since he has returned from the disabled list. Some people, including his manager, are saying his timing is off. In my opinion, I think his left thumb is not yet 100% for several reasons which is causing his timing issues.
In case someone has not been following the train wreck, here are Harper’s stats before and after the injury:
Before: .289/.352/.422, 23% K%
After: .129/.250/.161, 35% K%
The after is only 37 PA, but the results are abysmal.
He has yet to hit one ball to the outfield’s right side after the injury. Historically, 81% of his home runs have been to center (30%) or right (51%) field. Since he is hitting nothing to the right side, I expect no substantial power from him.
This situation reminds me of left-handed David Ortiz from a few years back. He hit the ball weakly to left field after a wrist injury and then slowly began to pull the ball with authority to right field as he got healthy. For a sign Harper is turning it around, look for him to start hitting to right field consistently.
The second key factor telling me the thumb still bothers him is he acts like it does. Players with injuries will physically show signs the body part bothers them. Here is Harper after a foul ball from Wednesday night.
He concentrates on and re-grips with the injured thumb. I went back a looked at him plate appearances before the injury and he never did anything close to the re-grip. If a Harper owner wants to know if he is healthy, watch a couple of games and see if favors the thumb in any way.
Bryce Harper’s thumb is probably not 100% yet and it is behind his offensive struggles since returning from the DL. Two items can be tracked to see if he is turning his season around. First, look to see if he is beginning to pull the ball with some power. Second, watch some of his at bats and see if he favors the thumb in any way.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.